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Should schools have to give children a certain amount of break time?

A group of MPs has recommended that children should have a minimum amount of break time in the school day. Picture: Getty Images

A group of MPs has recommended that children should have a minimum amount of break time in the school day. Picture: Getty Images

Mark Bowden

Should the amount of break time children get in the school day be decided by law?

This is the recommendation of a group of MPs in a new report.

A ‘Breaktime’ survey of schools has revealed that the amount of time schoolchildren are given to play outside or take part in physical activities during the school day has been decreasing for a number of years.

The report by the all party parliamentary group on a fit and healthy childhood said primary schools in urban areas or those with a higher proportion of children receiving free school meals tended to have less total time for breaks in their school day.

The main reasons given by schools for reducing break times were to create more time for teaching and to manage “poor behaviour” at lunch times.

But the MPs said time away from the classroom is important for health and fitness.

They recommended that schoolchildren should have a legal right to at least 75 minutes of break time in the school day, which would allow for the chief medical officer’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

The MPs added that a “minimum standard” for outdoor environments should also be introduced for state and academy primary schools amid concerns that school playground were becoming “increasingly rare”.

The report, studying the importance of PE (physical education) in the school curriculum, said the chance for exercise gives children “a ‘break’ from classroom demands” as well as helping combat childhood obesity and providing “a source of fun”.

But it said the effort of managing children during break times was often left to teachers or “dinner staff” without proper training, which meant supervisors could “struggle” to protect children from boredom or bullying.

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